Mark Koestler and Matthew Dunn, immigration co-chairs, Chai Kramer LevinMark Koestler and Matthew Dunn, immigration co-chairs
Throughout its history, the U.S has been a nation of immigrants. While some came searching for economic opportunity, others arrived to explore its political, religious, or artistic freedom. Their welcome depended on the idea that immigrants brought benefits to the nation regarding their scientific knowledge, artistic accomplishment, entrepreneurial talent, richer cultural diversity, or simple additions to the country’s vast labor force. With anti-immigration advocates arguing that immigrants displace American workers and burden social programs, governments have undertaken policy changes and considered immigration law changes throughout their tenure. Policy changes have deeply impacted industries and people at every level, from entry-level skilled job seekers to highly trained professionals in technology, medicine, and other occupations requiring higher technical skills. U.S. companies struggle to adhere to compliance with the complex and often murky immigration rules in the backdrop of such policy changes.

Kramer Levin’s Business Immigration Group leverages the most up-to-date information and legal know-how to help in-house counsel and human resource professionals interpret and navigate the constantly changing immigration policies and regulations. . Kramer Levin provides its clients proactive, creative, and pragmatic solutions that address today’s most challenging legal issues. To understand how they help American companies and immigrant workers to navigate the sweeping immigration restrictions, Manage HR Magazine interviewed Mark Koestler and Matthew Dunn, immigration co-chairs at Kramer Levin.

Could you give our readers a brief overview of Kramer Levin?

At Kramer Levin, we have a dedicated team of 11 lawyers and 11 paralegals who focus on business immigration exclusively. Our clients range in size from small hedge funds to Fortune 500 companies, and are in a wide array of industries. Many of our clients have been working with us for over 20 years. We strive to provide proactive legal services that revolve around two principles: strategic and creative thinking/problem solving and responsiveness.

What makes Kramer Levin unique is that we are a full-service law firm that practices a wide range of areas, including employment, tax, corporate, litigation, and more. Our clients appre-ciate that we can handle all of their legal services needs under one roof. Another element that differentiates us from our competitors is that lawyers, not paralegals, develop the strategy behind each and every case that we handle.

What are some of the immigration challenges you solve for your clients?

Mark: The last four years under Trump administration have been probably the most challenging time for a business immigration lawyer in my 28 years of legal practice. Through numerous reforms, including regulatory changes, policy changes, executive orders and travel bans, the administration created roadblocks in an effort to reduce legal immigration. Our Business Immigration Group counseled clients in addressing and overcoming these hurdles. We take a very proactive approach, ensuring that every possible issue our clients could possibly face is considered and addressed before it comes up. In some ways, it is like a chess game for us.

The Biden administration is much more amenable to legal immigration. As a result, we think that many more people will benefit from future changes to our immigration laws. The country as a whole will also benefit by once again attracting the best and brightest people from around the world

Matt: Over the last year, we have worked closely with our clients in applying for national interest exceptions (“NIEs”) to the travel bans. These travel bans have made it much more difficult for companies to compete in the international marketplace. With constantly changing policies and practices, we leveraged intelligence on NIE adjudications from US consulates around the world to achieve the best result for our clients. This enabled them to avoid any interruption in business operations.

How does strategic thinking help your clients in addressing their legal issues?

Mark: Our attorneys work closely with either our clients’ general counsel’s offices or HR de-partments. When a client approaches us with a legal issue, we start by collecting all of the facts of the case. We then analyze those facts, determine the client’s objective, and then, in light of current adjudication trends, develop a course of action to achieve the goal. For example, as we discussed earlier, under Trump, USCIS has never been more restrictive, often questioning the merits of strong, approvable cases. In one instance, the immigration service questioned whether a CEO who supervises 500 people satisfies the definition of “manager.” In that case, we changed gears and prepared and filed an extraordinary ability petition, which was approved without question within just a few days. The approval of the extraordinary ability case also allowed the client to avoid a visa issuance and travel ban on managers that was in place at that time.

Matt: Whether we are dealing with the US Consulates, USCIS or even the Department of Jus-tice, we develop effective strategies that are bespoke to each specific case. Currently, we are involved in one of the largest immigration-related lawsuits filed by the Department of Justice against a company. Having a though understanding of exactly what the client wants to achieve is absolutely critical. We then work closely with our client to develop legal, political, and business strategies to achieve results.

How does your experience in immigration law help you steer the company forward?

Matt: Having chaired the American Immigration Lawyers Association and serving in leadership positions in bar association committees, we generally know what is coming down the pike from the government, which allows us to plan ahead for our clients. We are able to leverage this foresight with our decades of experience to achieve the best result for a client on any given case.

Mark: Our clients benefit from our lawyers’ collective experience. We are a very collaborative group, and frequently discuss novel or difficult issues that a given case may present. We focus not only on the legal aspects of a particular issue, but also the practical considerations. A theoretical answer by itself is often only half the story—and it is the practical considerations that often determine a case strategy.

Matt: We meet every Wednesday as a team to discuss the recent developments and to share the latest intelligence on adjudications both at USCIS and the consulates. Although we are a big firm, we are small enough to bring every lawyer together to talk about the current issues that can help our clients. Our clients benefit from this collaborative approach, enjoying the collective experience and intelligence of all of our lawyers.

What does the future hold for Kramer Levin?

Mark: As a result of the last election, the future is bright for our clients and for us. The Biden administration is much more amenable to legal immigration. As a result, we think that many more people will benefit from future changes to our immigration laws. The country as a whole will also benefit by once again attracting the best and brightest people from around the world.

Matt: A combination of policy changes driven by the new administration and the KL Business Immigration Group’s experience, creativity, and responsiveness will continue to attract new clients. Our new clients have told us that they immediately see the difference in the way we practice immigration law from what they had experienced with prior counsel, including superior lawyering and a stellar bedside manner. As for our future, we expect to continue to follow our decades-old recipe for success–combining outstanding lawyering with exceptional responsiveness and slow, steady growth.